Never heavily involved in presidential politics before this cycle, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) was recently recognized by the Democratic National Committee for his fundraising efforts, the only Member of Congress to receive the distinction.
Blumenauer was named a “Patriot” for steering $100,000 into the committee’s “Kerry Victory 2004” account, a joint-fundraising agreement designed to benefit Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and the DNC.
The Oregon Democrat made the DNC list by organizing a May 25 fundraiser to coincide with Kerry’s visit to the state. It brought in roughly $800,000, he said.
“It’s clear that you don’t just go to Iowa and New Hampshire in the middle of the winter and endorse,” said Blumenauer. “We need resources” as well.
Laura Capps, a spokeswoman for Kerry, said that Blumenauer provided a “crucial endorsement” for the Senator in Iowa.
She added that since that day in January Blumenauer has “shown the depth of his commitment to electing Kerry.”
Blumenauer was one of 171 “Patriots”; the DNC also announced 17 “Trustees” who raked in $250,000 or more for the organization.
He said that “awareness is building” among his colleagues about the importance of raising money to aid Kerry in the fall.
“There is not a day that goes by that there isn’t an opportunity to have a conversation about the stakes and what we’re doing,” said the Oregon Democrat.
The attempt to reward individuals who raise significant funds is modeled after the blueprint created by President Bush’s campaign.
Seven Republican Members of Congress are “Rangers” for the Bush campaign, meaning they have raised at least $200,000 for the effort.
That list includes Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.) as well as Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Jennifer Dunn (Wash.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.).
Another four helped raised $100,000 — Sens. Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) as well as Reps. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Hal Rogers (Ky.) — earning them the title of “Pioneers.”
Blumenauer’s status as the lead Member fundraiser for the DNC is somewhat out of character for the five-term, Portland-area Congressman.
“I have never been this deeply involved in a presidential race,” admitted Blumenauer, whose Congressional tenure to this point has been defined by his ever-present bowtie and his bike, which he uses to get around the Capitol Hill campus.
He has won re-election easily in the strongly Democratic 3rd district and even contemplated a run for Portland mayor before deciding against a bid last September.
Blumenauer, however, was an early supporter of Kerry’s presidential bid and has been heavily involved in the campaign’s efforts on Capitol Hill.
In addition to his fundraising efforts, he serves on the committee charged with writing the party platform for the Democratic convention, which begins at the end of July.
Capps called Blumenauer an “active participant” in the campaign. “He is helping to raise funds, hosting events, speaking out in his home district and traveling” on Kerry’s behalf, she added.
Blumenauer said that the depth of involvement on Kerry’s behalf was an “easy decision to make” because of the contrast between the two candidates.
“There could not be a distinction that is more clear,” said Blumenauer. “This goes beyond partisanship. This really is about the soul of the country.”
Oregon is one of approximately 18 states that are being targeted by both Bush and Kerry this November.
In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore defeated Bush by less than 7,000 votes in the Beaver State.
Blumenauer said that much of his involvement is aimed at ensuring that Kerry has the ability to be financially competitive with Bush in the state.
“We will have the resources to compete in Oregon,” Blumenauer predicted.